It’s time to come forward with stories of predatory priests. Here’s mine.
August 1, 2018 (The Catholic Thing) – A prediction: The McCarrick revelations will turn out to be a good thing. How so? Well, a part of the priest sex-abuse fairy tale is the cover-up. We know this – and that the cover-up always magnifies the crime.
When a good priest has discovered the homosexual sins of a bad priest (let alone of a bishop), and if that good priest has gone to his pastor or to a bishop (let alone an archbishop), it's likely that he will hear a version of this:
Thank you, Father. We must do something about this, and we will! But, for the sake of the Church, you must tell no one else. The media will pounce on such a story to discredit Catholicism itself. You're brave to come forward. But I wouldn't want you to risk your career by becoming the focus of an ongoing and sensational investigation.
That's a high hurdle to jump in a Church that values hierarchy and discipline. But my prediction is that a great many priests who know of homosexual (and instances, too, of heterosexual) sins by priests (let alone bishops) will now begin to come forward.
I hope they will – every last one of them. Because the drip, drip, drip of scandal is really hurting the Church. If there's a levee that needs bursting, we should welcome that: a torrent to cleanse the swamp.
Let the flood come: of resignations and laicizations – perhaps hundreds of them. It will be destabilizing, and as a conservative I shudder at the prospect. But the miasma is now intolerable. The stench of suspicion is falling on every bishop, if not also every priest.
It must also be recognized that clergy engaging in sex-abuse is just a part of the problem. The 2004 John Jay College of Criminal Justice report to the USCCB contains some good data on the crisis. But its purview was limited to the abuse of kids, 17 and under. No research was done about the sexual escapades of priests with men, 18 and older.
Those data would likely reveal a much, much larger scandal – one that would explode a key conclusion of the John Jay researchers as well as the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe and the likes of Fr. James Martin, S.J., namely that the scandals "have nothing whatsoever to do with homosexuality." This simply cannot be true.
I'll now tell a tale I've alluded to before at TCT. But first I'll repeat what I've said to close friends, some of whom contribute to this website. Had I known in 1973 when I was about to enter the Catholic Church what we all know now about the extent of predatory homosexuality in the priesthood and the numbers of, by definition, sinful homosexual encounters among priests, boys, teens, and men, I would not have become Catholic. Thank God I didn't know, because – despite these scandals – I cannot imagine any other spiritual home.
Shortly after I made my profession of faith (I can't recall the season because it was in California), I came home late from work and missed the 5 PM Mass at the church I attended. The celebrant, shaking hands outside, told me there was a 6 PM at a church a few miles away, so I drove there.
At the end of that Mass, a priest approached me in the parking lot. He said he'd never seen me at Mass before. I explained, and he said:
"I want to ask you something, but I don't want to shake your faith."
"How would you do that?"
"It's something private."
I held up my hands: Huh?
Short story shorter, he said he wanted to have sex with me.
"You're under a vow of chastity," I said.
"No, no. You're a new Catholic. My vow is celibacy – not to marry – not chastity, yes?"
I went on to my car.
A few months later, back home in Ohio where I grew up, I went again to an evening Mass, and as I was receiving Communion, the priest whispered: "Come see me in the sacristy, okay?"
I'm embarrassed to admit the alarm bells didn't go off. This guy was subtler. He asked if I'd come with him to say the blessing before a high-school basketball game a few days on.
At the end of the first quarter, he said, "Thanks for the company. I owe you a drink." So we drove to a bar I'd never seen or heard of in the middle of downtown Columbus. When we got out of the car, he opened the trunk, took off his clerical collar, and put on a jacket that matched exactly the one I was wearing.
I got that sinking feeling. And, yes, the bar was a gay hangout.
"What'll you have?" he asked.
"Any old beer," I said, and he went to fetch it.
The bar was five miles from where I lived. I quickly exited, jogged a couple of blocks, and then walked the rest of the way home.
Then I visited a seminary, still considering a vocation to the priesthood. (I'd also visited another seminary and two monasteries.) The vocations director took me to dinner, and it happened again. I won't repeat now what I said to him then.
At this point, I'd been a Roman Catholic for less than six months. The upshot was: I steered clear of priests for the next fifteen years, pretty much until I met Fathers Neuhaus, Rutler, and Schall.
This anecdotal evidence proves nothing. And I would qualify the meme in L'Affaire McCarrick that, "Everybody knew." Lots did, but most people had no clue. Unless you were party to the rumor mill, you knew nothing about it.
But I'm not the only adult who was "hit on" by priests. I'm probably not the only guy to whom it happened thrice.
Let's drain the swamp – for the sake of the Church.
Published with permission from The Catholic Thing.